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Nice! Deep Magic takes those vril concepts introduced in Sunken Empires and really explores not only the energy itself, but its utilization by PCs, which is why its so heavy on archetypes and bloodlines and absent of the items that filled Sunken Empires. And I stayed pretty pure to the core of vril's concept, which means most classes indulge in the conversion of arcane energy into the more primitive vril energy, gain some psychic sensitivity, and ultimately sacrifice versatility for blasting power.
Which, ultimately, is why it was hard for us to re-conceptualize vril for Occult Adventures. Vril isn't the most versatile of psychic energies--it's a pretty raw esoteric substance that you can use to blast things, or heal things. Once you take those concepts to their design limits without delving into territory never hinted or explored by Bulwer-Lytton, its hard to revisit without either being unnecessarily redundant or indulging in inaccurate extrapolation. And there's no lack of pulpy concepts for this book to explore--like tulpas, maybe?--that we just deferred to my previous work on vril and moved on to other topics. That's unfortunate for those that might like to have explored it for PFS characters or in games where GMs defer to Paizo-exclusive content, but beyond that, the material's not only there, but written by the same guy who would have written it for Occult Adventures. =-)
I will say this, though--you're certainly on the right track for envisioning the sort of concepts this book explores.
No intended combativeness here, RD, but it is a good chance for me to illustrate the design approach of this book via the syntax differences you illustrate.
Occult Adventures aims to capture a different mood and zeitgeist of a previous age of occult disciplines than did 3.5-era psionics. To confirm 8th Dwarf's inquiry above, I'm serving on this book both as a freelancer and in a high-level design capacity; we haven't yet settled on whether I'll be credited as "creative consultant" or "spirit guide," but you get the idea. =-)
One easy way for me to represent the difference in "psychic" and "psionic" is through one of my professional historical avenues. I'm a board member of a society called IAPSOP: the International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals. This is a massive online database--an archive of several million pages of digital pdfs of important and historical esoteric works, from weekly Spiritualist newspapers to rare Theosophical books, from the 18th-century right up to the copyright threshold of about the 1950s. Here's a keyword search of that database for the term "psionic." For those of you who don't feel like clicking, there are no hits in a database of millions of hardcore esoteric pages from for the term "psionic".
And that's because that term wasn't coined until 1952, and gained little to no footage among actual practitioners, but instead gained traction with science fiction writers. And that period of esoteric thought and science fiction influences is something that 1E-3.5 era psionics drew from readily, and by default, DSP.
But that's not our wellspring of inspiration with this book. We're plumbing darker depths of historic mysticisms and doctrines. And, as much as that matters, "psychic" and "occult" are the appropriate and correct descriptive buzzwords, and not terms that we view as synonymous with "psionics", the difference of which in fact serve as fantastic separators between the design intentions of this book, and what's already been explored by legacy products and DSP.
For what's it's worth, and for those reasons, there are significant differences, and they're important and distinct to the nature of this tome.
I've seen it used by people on the forums, but always in lowercase - thus, at least I presumed, not indicative of an actual name, just a descriptor. I couldn't tell you if it was by a dev or not though, and I'm too lazy to go look it up.
Wicked Woodpecker of the West wrote:
Psychic Mage - I have no idea, but you definitely should rename him, folk. I mean those two part base class names are just... wrong. Definitely wrong. Thank gods they changed Favoured Soul to Invoker.
Would have been more appropriate to have aimed for WotW's post from earlier in the thread. Still very early in the class design phase--we really want to hear what everyone wants to see in this book, but let's not jump to too many conclusions about what's set in stone when we haven't even poured the concrete yet.
Otherwise looks really good, only a bit suspicious of Spiritualist; isn't that already the Shaman's shtick?
Only marginally. The shaman is based on the concept of animism--that everything in nature, inanimate and otherwise, has a soul or a spirit: a rock, a tree, the river, lightning, wind, etc, etc, and that through magic, that spirit can be controlled, influenced, or manipulated. It's one of mankind's oldest religious doctrines, and considered primitive or unrefined in that regard, though I'd argue the opposite, as keeping track of how indigenous peoples interact in different ways with different entitles is mind-boggling, and a phenomenon anthropologists can spend their whole careers tracking.
The shaman's abilities are also confined by the base classes that make up its component parts: the oracle and the witch.
The Spiritualist, on the other hand, has no such base class boundaries to influence its creation, and is built on a more refined (or more modern, in any case) religious belief that only humans have souls. These souls persist after death, where they interact with a complicated ethereal cosmology where breaking back through the boundaries beyond the veil of death is difficult, and requires the aid of a medium and/or séance rituals to draw them forth through our world--usually by shrouding them in ectoplasm to give them physical form. This will give the Spiritualist not only a much different flavor than the Shaman, and a totally different definition of "spirits" (think this, this, or this), but also a totally unique set of abilities not defined by the abilities of its constituent classes. Stay tuned. It rocks.
For those of you who were unable to attend GenCon, the fine folks of the Know Direction Podcast were kind enough to film the announcement, which you can see here. The discussion of Occult Adventures begins at the 30:50 minute mark.
More details on classes were given in the subsequent design team seminar, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.
Was just about to post in the 2014 and Beyond thread on this topic, but since the conversation'll likely shift, I'll post my comments here instead:
I am incredibly excited to be involved with this book on such a high level creatively, and grateful to Erik and the design team for having me in the fold. It's funny how full circle it all is, really. The germ of this book's ideas was conceived at PaizoCon 2013, and born exactly one year ago at GenCon, so it was only fitting to return there to see what the design team was making of our bizarre Theosophical inspirations, Millerite musings, crazed occult ramblings, and ideas collected from dark seances and ghostly whispers over the course of the year.
After convening with Jason, Logan, Stephen, and Mark at our GenCon dinner, I can only echo Erik's sentiments--all of them--and let you guys know that I was positively giddy with the new class designs and the work they are doing to make this smorgasbord of occult inspirations a cohesive reality. I was already excited after meeting with Stephen in Tulsa and talking about all these secrets in the dark corners of an underground bar, and now that I've seen what the whole team is up to, I know you're going to see some incredible new ground broken with what we have in store for this book. Some of the speculation here doesn't get everything that was actually leaked right (when the seminar videos inevitably go up you'll want to pay close attention to Jason's comments on the proposed Mystic, for example), but Paizo's take on this subject--starting with the base class designs and running right on up through incredible new systems and to the last page of the hardcover--is just going to be amazing, and positively dripping with theme and flavor that explores some great new territory in our favorite game.
I'm supremely grateful to be that manifest spirit Erik conjured to whisper haunting occult inspirations into the design team's séance, so thank you to the guys for having me in the circle. Now, if you'll excuse me, lots of things need tending to here after a week-long absence. My seance chamber's suffered a flood of ectoplasm, there's a guy here in strange robes telling me my chakras are all out of alignment, my akashic record has a smeared autograph that might read "Jason Bulmahn,"and the golden calf in my office hardly tolerates a week without sacrifice, so there's work to be done!
Hahaha, well, there's that. But this particular method doesn't need tools. AND it's historically accurate.
You guys, there has been a low-level (and non-magical!) mechanism for communicating with haunts for several years now, published first in the Haunts of Golarion article in Haunting of Harrowstone and revisited in Occult Mysteries. Rules (scroll down to "Investigating Haunts") for speaking with haunts in the form of rapping spirits (primarily to open up roleplaying opportunities for PCs to discern the keys to laying them to rest) have been around for a while, without that pesky 4th-level spell requirement. Jus' sayin'. ;-)
Well, folks, you're in luck! Since Charlie Bell's at PaizoCon keeping the Black Rock wiped clean of green blood at Daigle and I's annual event (which I am sadly missing), I'm going to step in here and show you what YOU might be missing if you haven't yet downloaded Wayfinder #11.
Charlie and Damien McGurell's article, "The Imperial Army of Her Infernal Majestrix," shows you a little glimpse of what you might expect from Armies of Golarion should we ever convince the powers-that-be to make it a reality: a smorgasbord of Chelish units and diabolical squads (9 total!) for the UC mass combat rules, and, most exciting for me, TWO NEW TROOP STATBLOCKS: the Chelish Infantry Troop (CR 10) and the Lemure Mob (CR 11).
I know who I'll be hoping gets assigned to freelance on AoG if it happens!
My home campaign from which the troop subtype was adapted is heavy on PC-versus-troops engagement. Or, rather, the flexibility of the system allows for PCs to interact on a larger battlefield with no change to their statblocks, which was the whole point. We shift rounds between the larger troop-vs-troop action of the battlefield and PC-vs-troops/leaders in in-between rounds. It works fantastically.
doc the grey wrote:
So quick aside, am I the only one who's a little sad to not see the spirit planchettes reprinted here for the spiritualism section?
No, you aren't the only one a little saddened over that omission, especially considering I not only wrote the Spiritualism chapter, but that planchettes are my specialty. They were set for inclusion, but they're a high-wordcount magic item statblock, so I totally get how they'd be an easy cut in development. The trade-off is that great piece of art with Imrijka rockin' a talking board, though!
PoV, my research for the book indicated what DaemonAngel already stated--that some Mark Vs made landfall in 1918, and thus were fair game for inclusion. Back when the adventure debuted, I was cocked-and-loaded to tackle these detailed specifics in the event I got entangled in any similar historical questions/debates (like my previous one where I was called out for the Western-like architecture of the Orthodox cathedral, and submitted the exact Russian church, in-the-same-region, on which the RMD cathedral was based to show I *did* know exactly what I was doing) but, unfortunately, we've added a toddler to the family since the adventure's debut, and half a dozen backup drives, and I'll be hard-pressed to dig up those references and notes. But they are around here somewhere if you want to hear what historical sources I was working from for the included elements. It just might take me some time to find and post.
Getting those historical facts straight was very important to me in the writing of this adventure, and I didn't leave many holes in the boat, as it were. I didn't want any potential inaccuracies to be a distraction to WWI history buffs who might read or play in the adventure, and was very, very careful with my research and inclusions of stuff like this, even as contradictory as some primary source material can be.
How about the Order of the Palatine Eye? Is the info more-or-less a reprint from Carrion Crown?
Less. As author of both, I can tell you that the contents here summarize what you've seen while adding a lot a new angles and aspects, including new exclusive abilities for brethren and rules for PC membership you've never seen. And what Irnk said, above. ;-)
The druid in my party transformed himself in a huge air elemental right before the trenches (and after the mortar troops shoot then (they set off a mine) he decided to use his whirlwind ability to suck up the troops... and we stopped to play in that moment. are the troops affected by this ability?
Well now, that *is* a tricky one.
Whirlwinds can only affect creatures one or more size category smaller than itself, and while the troop takes up the space of a gargantuan creature, its composite nature means it only has a true size category of medium.
So the troop is definitely affected. And with the size of a Huge air elemental (50 ft) there's more than enough room to fit all the composite creatures if that were called into question. So give the troop its save as normal against the damage and the suspension effect (it makes its saves on a 8+, so it's in good shape) and run with it. And don't forget that even if immobilized due to the suspension, the troops still get actions and attacks (ouch!) that they're likely to focus on their tormentor. And that grenade volley is a move action, sooooo... =-)
As WB says, I'm pretty sure every single vril thing in the book is from my pen, but I'm also particularly proud of a couple of other contributions in the spell chapter: skittering vermin and voracious vermin, not the least because it allowed me to finally use the word "varmint" in an RPG product.
And as soon as they were both published, I promptly asked my GM if my character could research them and add them to my spell list.
Freelancing does have its benefits. =-)
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:
Why are the two vermin spells on the vril spell list? They don't seem to share any thematics, and they aren't even transmutations as all other vril magic seems to be.
I *bet* I know why without even looking.
My turnover included a few spells in addition to the vril-themed selections, and two of them, skittering vermin and voracious vermin, made the cut for inclusion in the book. While they weren't intended as vril spells, and they shouldn't be on that list, looks like they crept in there during development, likely due to an erroneous-but-understandable assumption that since they came out of a document that was 95% vril-related, they were intended as vril.
So, strike those two from the list. Every vril spell has vril in the spell name.
ANOTHER LIST CORRECTION: There are no witch vril spells, and vril refraction is erroneously listed as a witch spell on that list, although it is only sorcerer/wizard, as a glimpse at the spell itself reveals. Looks like compounded error from those vermin spells, which are on the witch spell list.
doc the grey wrote:
Does this add to or expand upon the vril technology laid out in sunken empires?
Doc, Deep Magic adds to the vril of Sunken Empires in a BIG way. Rather than focusing on items, however, it turns the lens to the wielders and channelers of vril, with several archetypes, feats, bloodlines, and a host of accompanying spells that allow casters to transmute the arcane energy of 'modern' spells into the raw, primordial force known as vril. Assuming everything made it in (waiting on my copy, too!), then there's also a sidebar addressing how vril wielders can recharge the vril batteries and items from Sunken Empires.
I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:
Ahem. Or the past 10,000 years, at least.
I have re-read all of my previous points, and they were confrontational in the sense I was saying there was a problem...
I disagree, and wrote up the examples of bruised egos and glad-handing, however, pointing out peoples faults, instead of their content would be vitriolic; and, adding malice has no benefits to productive discussions.
Let me lay it out for you nice and simple, Necronus. If you were interested in a positive, interactive discourse and answers to your questions, you might have started by not calling those haunt-using freelancers involved in this thread "lazy," then sticking by that attack. That does indeed cross into vitriolic territory, and ceases to criticize the mechanic you have a problem with in favor of personal mischaracterizations. You *might* have meant to refer to the rules mechanic itself, and not the writers personally, but when given the chance to clarify, you stuck with it. It's kind of like when that guy last week said he thought Paizo writers were on drugs. I think my response there is particularly fitting here, as well. More flies with honey, and all that.
I could not sense any sarcasm from my previous posts, so I am thinking that has to do with the perspective of the reader, of which I apologize.
That's because there *was* no sarcasm. It was a direct insult, particularly for those of us who take on these assignments for pretty meager pay at the expense of months of time with our families and personal lives so we can contribute a little game content to the world. Remember that all of us go through the exact same complicated thought process to evaluate the inclusion of haunts that Jim Groves outlined in his post, so I hope he shed some light on freelancers' motivations outside of "laziness." There are myriad reasons writers resort to using an approved rules mechanic that the majority does not seem to have a problem with, and a LOT of hard work, time, dedication, and consideration that goes into writing adventures. And you recognize that, saying "some of the histories, stories, and descriptions of haunts I have read were incredibly well written and worthy of praise," not to mention your acknowledgement of Jim's explanations given above. So you get it. But also know that apologizing for how someone was insulted by an insult you uttered is not an apology.
Necronus, the tenor of these boards over the last year has unfortunately taken a nosedive in the manners department, and this sort of thing is a prime example of why more and more freelancers are posting less and less often. If we're going to continue interacting, we're going to do it with reasonable folks who don't resort to insulting characterizations right out of the gate. I *know* you are a reasonable guy because I can read your otherwise well-thought-out responses. So please keep it clean, and please watch the personal attacks.
As the only Paizo writer (excluding staff) whose work was specifically called out in the thread as an example of drug-induced writing, I'll give you a minute of my time to share what I thought about it.
Though I've never used drugs, I was not necessarily offended. I did think your use of an attention-grabbing headline was boorish, immature, and in poor taste. If your goals were *truly* to get the feedback you claim you were after, and not to rabble-rouse, you failed. Why? Because if you had started a thread titled more softly, like "Paizo Put Their Modern Chocolate in My Fantasy Peanut Butter" or "Please Help Me Resolve Non-Traditional AP Elements," then you are way, way more likely to have not only gotten the feedback from the community you say you were seeking, but more likely to lure those hard-working, apparently drug-addled freelancers to comment on the topic with worthwhile feedback.
But you didn't. You used a contentious headline and boorish insinuations to get attention, and it properly backfired. Which is why you didn't see me, or any other Paizo freelancers partially responsible for those non-traditional elements, taking part in the discourse. You might have had me, for example, inform you that Rasputin Must Die! has proven to be one of Paizo's most popular and fastest-selling AP chapters, with a slew of incredible reviews and amazing feedback that I never could have predicted when I took the assignment. That should tell you something as to how well the genre-pushing elements are accepted by the greater Paizo community. Maybe I'd have shared some of my inspirations and thoughts on crossing genres in a fantasy game, particularly since my home game is staunchly-traditional. I might have even suggested you check out the "Alternate Fantasy Overlays" thread I started here on the boards to modify the adventure into more of a fantasy environment for groups uncomfortable with the modern setting--showing GMs how, with only a few simple shifts, they could substitute WWI-era Earth and Rasputin for the world of Greyhawk and Iuz.
I might have been nice, or gracious, or helpful, or generally friendly, because that's the kind of guy I am in this community. But instead, I browsed your post and some responses, figured your words were probably an accurate reflection of your character, and got on with my day without thinking twice about it. Ultimately, that might be your loss. Maybe not.
To kinda-quote Sean Reynolds, who I'll miss dearly around these parts, on posting maturely:
"Is your attitude more likely to get someone to respond positively, or less likely?"
In this case, it was less likely. Way less likely. And "sorry you took offense at my insulting comments" before telling the offended to evaluate themselves isn't all that redeeming, either. Oh, the irony. But you seem like a reasonable sort, and I hope you see why you got the response you did, and can move forward as a productive, positive member of our community. Because we could use all the help these days in an increasingly negative environment around here.
Folks--another reminder. This forum is for the discussion of haunts as they pertain to their use in the Carrion Crown adventure path. Not PFS, and not Rite Publishing products. Please be considerate of further threadjacking by moving those aspects of the conversation either back to the PFS forums, or to the respective product pages for the oft-mentioned publications. Gamer-printer, if you "can't attest other publishers use of haunts," then perhaps you should stop and familiarize yourself with Paizo's haunts (specifically those in CC), particularly since they are the focus of this thread. How else are you to know that the products you keep promoting present the right solutions to the posed problems? =-) You do good work, buddy!
This is spoken like someone that has never sat at a table under an unreasonable game master or played in a living campaign like Pathfinder Society for any significant amount of time...
I disagree and I think many more people than you suspect do... but because of dismissive statements like 'I fixed it by doing this' or 'It works for me' or 'I'm going to play it my way and you play it yours' or 'it's just a game suck it up' or 'if you don't like it don't play' or (my new favorite) 'Who made you an authority'. We'll come back to that last one here in a bit... but I will say that these Haunt threads were pointed out to me.
This haunt thread was pointed out to you because it offers proposed solutions that you were seeking, not because your criticism was in the wrong place. There's a reason responses like "I fixed it by doing this" and others are valid here where they may not be valid on other areas of the messageboard, Thrikreed. You brought your complaints and the root cause for them out of the PFS threads and into the AP threads, and out here, suggested fixes for home GMs, whether they come from freelancers, other GMs, 3PP material suggestions, or just any interested party with a good idea, are valid.
This thread was created to aid GMs running the Carrion Crown AP and, in particular, Haunting or Harrowstone and its associated haunts. While that's not to say your initial critique of haunts doesn't make some solid points or is out of place here, when you guys steer off course with the root of your conflict being about acceptable PFS allowance for GM fixes, which is a HUGE percentage of the source of your complaint, you're off-topic. And as the thread's also labeled "DMs ONLY," it's not exactly the proper forum to air player grievances, either. I would kindly suggest that those aspects of the conversation be brought back to the PFS boards or moved to respective product pages. Because until/unless Carrion Crown is sanctioned for PFS play, criticisms based on "we can't fix it because the rules say so" are off-target, and off-topic.
So please keep debating the merits or lack thereof of haunts and potential fixes, but with the new understanding, lets please move the conversation beyond the restrictions of PFS-allowable rules changes and throw that conversation back to the thread that IS discussing it, because that isn't going to help anyone coming here to look for help with haunts.
(I'll also note that that PFS thread's responses to haunts are overwhelmingly positive/neutral, with less than a half-dozen true detractors among 100 posts. Most are in the "I like haunts" camp, almost all the rest are in the middling "when well done, haunts are OK" camp, noting some occasional problems when they aren't used right, and only a small percentage (about 4 posters) falls into the "I hate these things they are too problem-plagued" mode of thinking. I think that mix of public opinion has been pretty consistent on this thread as well. Which, along with my home experience, makes me feel pretty confident in the mechanic and the public's perception and use of it.)
Moving forward: You've been offered a solution for fixing PC information on haunts with Knowledge checks, a system of which has since found print in 3PP products. You've noted a lack of backstory elements with the response that Haunting of Harrowstone has backstory elements for the important haunts, and the backmatter article's haunts doesn't have extensive backstories because they were meant for GMs to work their own histories for them in home campaigns. We all recognize the problems with inflicting the suicide haunt on PCs (though it does not appear in Carrion Crown or HoH), so let's get past that.
What non-PFS-related criticisms have not been addressed? Wonky 'screw-you' creation tactics with nasty GMs potentially jury-rigging the CR system? Initiative matters forcing haunts on PCs with no chance to otherwise react? Other issues? What would you propose be done to solve these perceived shortcomings?
If everyone continues to play nice, I'll continue to help.
Just a point of clarification as I otherwise sidestep this pothole of vitriol: I am not the creator of the haunt mechanic. The first appearance of the haunts (and your hated suicide haunt) was in The Skinsaw Murders, which was written during the 3.5 era. The rules were refined for the Gamemastery Guide, and given that I spend just about every spare minute researching historical hauntings and séance history, Paizo asked me to write the haunts article for Haunting of Harrowstone.
Now, I am the guy responsible for trying to fix some of your concerns. I introduced the rapping spirit rules in that article to give PCs at least some means of communicating with haunts and learning the methods of their destruction. The Knowledge check rules you stated above were cut from the published version of the HoH article, so I put them here on the boards for the community to use as they see fit, along with some other refinements that are posted upthread here. It's my hope that I'm given another crack at plugging some of those holes in an official rules format. We'll see.
So obviously I recognize that the mechanic has some issues, though I'm not willing to subscribe to most of your points of breakdown. The point of the HoH article, since it wasn't immediately obvious to you, was to provide basic haunt statbocks of various CRs that could be customized for home campaigns. That's when haunts work best--when their backstories are crafted and customized for your gaming table and weaved into the stories you're trying to tell. The point of the HoH article was to provide the mechanics and leave the intimate backstories open for GMs to work into their own campaigns. Other sources, like the fantastic Rite Publishing series, did that backstory work for you and addressed two of your main complaints by also adding Knowledge checks, but you've seen fit to dismiss those as products you would "avoid buying." Way to play, dude.
I've used haunts for years to great effect at the game table, but maybe that's because I take special care with them. And I can't account for how other GMs run them or use them or how other gaming tables react to them. But they work for me and my people. Looking at the thread that got you here, they obviously work for lots of other folks as well, despite their perceived shortcomings. If they don't work for you as a GM, fix them or design something else. If they don't work for you as a player, let your GM know. If it's a PFS thing, avoid scenarios with them if that's your beef. If your complaint is that they're overused in PFS, I'm afraid I can't help you and that's a topic of conversation for a different thread and different people, which you seem to have already found. Beyond that, while we appreciate your enthusiasm, please be a little nicer on these boards and dial back the spite a bit. We're all intelligent folks here trying to have a good time, and it's just a game.
Carter Lockhart wrote:
That sounds really cool Brandon, thanks for posting that. The control mechanic sounds interesting as well, I might thread that into my game when they reach that point. Anything more to share on that area?
OK, but with the caveat that I am not really sure how well these mechanics gel with the published document--particularly as it pertains to the palace traps, so I can't promise you'll have seamless integration (particularly with Xin-triggered traps). To make it work, you should be able to just assume every portal in the palace is locked, and stairs as shown on the map don't exist until a passed control check makes them grow.
James and I chatted about these before publication. Mostly, this was judged to be a super-cool atmospheric addition, but ultimately just one more thing for GMs to have to keep track of in an already complicated high-level module. It was the right call.
Using Control Checks to Oppose Traps:
As promised--the final heave-and-collapse of Xin's crystal palace from one of my drafts. Not official, of course, but might be a fun addendum.
One note, though. There's an important element in here that didn't make the final adventure that's potentially confusing. Originally, the PCs had to make "Control Checks" to open the palace's doors, close entrances, and make crystal stairways "grow" down so they could be used. In keeping with my established theme that Azlanti avoid *touching* things if they can help it, I liked the idea of no door knobs or anything--if Xin wanted to get somewhere, he'd just think about an entrance opening up in the appropriate section of the wall and the crystal would respond, or a stairway would grow up or down to get him where he wanted to go. Likewise, powerful PCs could try to exert their mental influence on the palace to get it to do what *they* wanted instead of Xin, and this could not only open/close passages and doorways, but even help them shut down some of the traps if they made a good Perception check and acted quickly, etc. Think of this as the same sort of control system used for the sphere of annihilation, and there were some circumstances where they could battle for control of the palace with Xin's ghost for key entrances he didn't want them in, though it was mostly a cool way to open doors and find staircases, though it could also get characters in trouble when things "regrew" to close behind them, etc. Part of that "Control Check" system is still in here, so this may have limited usefulness in absence of that system, becoming more of a "screw you guys" just-deal-damage party-pooper than an interactive we-can-save-ourselves-with-the-power-of-our-minds event:
The Dying Palace (CR 14)
With the destruction of the Clockwork Reliquary, the palace rings out in a mournful cry, and its crystal form—so intrinsically tied to the life of Xin, begins cracking and crumbling, threatening to bury all within.
The Clockwork Reliquary's defeat signals the last desperate measure of Xin's palace to destroy those that have laid its master low, and it strikes out violently in its death throes. Its crystal walls begin to crumble beneath the weary party's feet, threatening to crush them under its dying weight or bury them beneath its sharp shards.
One round after the Clockwork Reliquary's defeat, the palace begins disintegrating. Characters have only 5 rounds to escape the palace, though they do not have to reach the front entrance to do it, as the cracking palace will soon open an exit of its own. Tremors rock the palace, and PCs must make a DC 20 Reflex save each round or fall prone. Crystal shards and slivers lash out blindly as the party flees, and PCs take 4d6 points of damage each round from the jagged shards (Reflex DC 20 for half). But while the palace still lives, PCs can attempt a DC 35 Control Check [1d20 + character level + character Int modifier] as part of their move actions to stabilize it locally, and PCs who succeed avoid damage entirely, though this does not halt the quaking effects.
After 5 rounds, the light of the outside world appears through large cracks in the palace walls, offering PCs a chance to escape. At this level, the PCs are 170 feet high, and can either jump to the ground below (suffering 17d6 damage) or fly. PCs who fail to escape are caught in the collapsing palace 1 round later, and take 10d6 points of damage, or half that amount if they make a DC 25 Reflex save. They are subsequently buried (Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook 415) in the rubble of the dead palace, and the quakes continue as the island slowly sinks over the next 10 minutes into the stormy sea.
Treasure: As PCs recover from the disaster of the collapsing tower, allow them to make a DC 25 Perception check to spy a fist-sized chunk of the palace, glowing with the light of inner glyphs. This is the last living shard of Xin's palace, and functions as an instant fortress, though it make gain additional abilities and sentience over time.
I'm going to go the other way here. I wouldn't change a thing. At *most* I might give the player an extra die of damage, perhaps a static bonus (add Str modifier again?), or *maybe* the +50% damage. At most, and only if I felt they really resented the temporary uselessness of earned abilities.
Making the character that much more effective against the admittedly dangerous troops destroys their effectiveness--not only as a combatant, mind you--but in the role they are really meant to play in the module: a deterrent and a steering mechanism once PCs enter the prison.
The trenches aren't meant to be "cleared out" like a dungeon full of kobolds. The presence of the troops, and the ever-roaming searchlights, are meant to be a dangerous, looming threat that the PCs should really be trying to avoid as they seek to complete their goals and take the fight to Rasputin. If they are engaging in one boring firefight after the other (because that wholesale slaughter *will* become boring if your guys are able to hack the troops to pieces) rather than using their abilities to infiltrate the heart of Rasutin's camp and solve the mysteries of his location, then the adventure's horrific aspect and overall storyline become muted.
PCs should also learn fairly quickly that these troops are not acting entirely of their own volition, which raises some ethical questions if your fighter is hacking and cleaving his way through dozens of nosferatu-dominated men. They aren't exactly nice guys, mind you, but they're also not evil, bloodthirsty, demon-possessed murderers--they are soldiers following orders to protect their headquarters, and dominated to insure they follow those orders precisely and turn a blind eye to the supernatural horrors within the inner walls of the prison.To impress this on the group, maybe they should meet Dmitri sooner than later.
Also recall that the electrified barricade works both ways. For the most part, the soldiers stay stationed in the trenches unless otherwise noted in the adventure. Making a hack-and-slash slaughter around the camp's perimeter, new-found cleaving-prowess in hand, doesn't accomplish any of the adventure's goals, and, as noted above, removes the deterrent you as a GM are able to utilize while the troops survive, and that is if the PCs make a wrong move or make too big a show of things, those troops might decide to cross the fence after all. And the PCs shouldn't be inviting that.
I say leave it as is or make only a minor adjustment, let the PCs know just how dangerous those troops are, and encourage them to seek ways to *not* go on a troop-killing spree, and keep them as a looming threat that could open a floodgate of PC death if they aren't careful in their explorations. Just some thoughts for consideration!
That's the way it's done, folks! As much as we writers try and anticipate every action and shoehorn stories into the GM's hands, reacting to elements like time management, PC interest, and general flow of the adventure episode make that a fantastic ending that rewards PCs for quick thinking, awards them a great final cinematic scene of what *would* have been if they'd failed, and sends everyone home happy. Well done, Dustin!
So awesome, you guys--love hearing about how these games play out at the table! Kudos to all!
Joshua, there was originally an old Maine tradition I stumbled across in my research (brought over from the Netherlands, if I recall) that I don't think made it to the final print: the goose snatch. The villagers hang a greased goose upside down from a high branch, and everyone takes turns trying to jump up and snatch its head off. The winner gets to eat it at the feast. Of course, the villagers rig the game by placing diseased nails (treat as caltrops) in the grass when the PCs take their turn. Good times.
And Dustin--when I run into problems like this, PCs skipping areas wholesale, avoiding an important encounter, etc, I usually transplant the good stuff somewhere else. Maybe have a cultist encounter in the opening to the corn maze, for example. But in this case, like Joshua points out, the final encounter is difficult enough, so if they skipped something, the saved resources will likely help balance it out!
Rob wrapped this up all pretty nicely, but an additions from the author:
1. The heir to the Romanov line would actually be Alexei, not Anastasia. But, as the text shows, that's
not exactly Alexei, is it?
And in any case, the throne of importance to this story to which Anastasia is heir is Irrisen's throne, not Russia's. If you guys want to argue about Russia's complicated line of succession at your game table, go right ahead. I'd just keep an eye on Alexei as he licks his lips with a hungry look in his eyes, and if I were GM I'd be rolling Perception checks the minute someone uttered the name "Cyril" or any of Nicholas' male 2nd cousins. How'd their characters know that anyway? Legend lore? =-)
2. I was very aware of Rasputin's first recorded foray into St. Peterburg being 1903. To account for this, my original text stated that he had stopped there briefly in secret before his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and performed a seance which the tsarina attended. As you can imagine, after a long adventure development and editing process, a few key important words to clarify and account for that little historical inconsistency worked their way out of the document. Like the succession issue, I can't possible imagine how this is going to affect the game or the story you're trying to tell.
I think that the adventure has gotten along this far in the public's discerning and hyper-critical eye with so few inaccuracies noted, especially considering the incredibly complicated story that we've woven into a fantasy adventure (some earlier "historical inaccuracy" claims didn't pan out as the critics hoped, particularly regarding some of the weapons included and their use in the war). I think it bodes fantastically well for the job we've done on this one, and I know both myself and Paizo busted our butts to make sure as few of these things sneaked into the final document, because neither myself nor Rob, Adam, or any other Paizo employee wanted to spend our days arguing over historical sticking points or worry about distracting educated readers to the point of frustration. So you found a couple of non-relevant inconsistencies. That's alright. A slip here or there was bound to happen, and I suppose how "glaring" they are is all in the eye of the beholder. Or maybe in the eye of the beholder's intimate grasp of obscure imperial succession law. Hahaha.
But rest assured, the topics are not only relatively obscure to even the most historically-minded, they aren't ultimately relevant to the story the players will be experiencing.
I imagine after the spanking his Sooners got yesterday despite playing the worst Texas Longhorn team in recent memory, the Greg we all knew and loved will be but a shell of his former self: a hollow man wandering the desolate wastes of his own burned-out subconscious, absently carving practice cadavers with no joy or purpose.
Ha! That's awesome! Mona wrote me the other night and told me he'd finally watched it on Netflix, so good to hear it's getting out there. I actually had lunch with Evan and her husband here in Austin this past Sunday, and Mike and I are really good pals these days, each of us taking turns traveling to New York and Texas to scour the Earth together for crazy stuff. So being on the show was a really fortuitous meeting of great folks and good friends. Always a hoot!
Brandon, push it to print! I'd love to see more about the Eye and their dealings in the Inner Sea. Hell, I'd LOVE a oooh!
Mark Moreland wrote:
Patience, however, brings enlightenment.